By Jameelah Medina, PhD
We have all heard about (former) NFL player, Ray Rice, receiving a 2-game suspension for a domestic altercation with his former fiancée. Janay Rice, who is now his wife, explained that she was partially at fault for the violence that led to being unconscious in an elevator; however, most did not know the extent of the violence. We all know that it takes a serious amount of force to render someone unconscious, but the recent release of the entire surveillance video showing how she lost consciousness set off a storm. In short, the video shows Mr. Rice reaching for her before they enter the elevator. Once in the elevator, he strikes her. She responds by pushing him, and he hits her again hard enough to knock her to the floor. On her way down, her head hits a handle bar in the elevator. Once on the floor, she does not move; she is unconscious. He is forced to drag her seemingly lifeless body from the elevator and out of the building.
While many were appalled at his violent actions, many chose to focus on Mrs. Rice. They asked questions like, “Why did she stay with him?” “How could she marry him?” “Why would she lie for him?” “How could she sit at that press conference and support him so publicly?” While it is very easy to judge an abused woman, her behavior and choices; it is actually better to try to understand the psychological nature of abuse and the psychology of the abused and battered.
Relationships hardly ever start out abusive. There is a process of breaking in and breaking down a victim. This process involves possessiveness, isolation, verbal and emotional abuse, and other tactics. Women who have experienced physical, emotional, sexual or other forms of abuse as girls are at greater risk for entering into an abusive relationship. For many, become accustomed to seeing violence as a way in which love is shown. Others may have low self-esteem in general or at least when it comes to romantic relationships. While others see potential in the abuser and believe that they can help the abuser change.
Many women, especially in the African American community, also have an aversion to involving the authorities in domestic disputes; they would rather take the abuse than offer their abusive partner up to the criminal justice system. Within the African American community, there is also the stigma of being seen as weak and the stereotype of “the strong, black woman.” This often keeps African American women silent about the abuse they suffer.
Over 85 percent of domestic violence (DV) or intimate partner violence (IPV) is against women, and one in every three women will experience IPV in her lifetime. More than 33% of teenage girls already report experiencing violence in a dating relationship. Abused women are often killed by their abusive partners, and the most dangerous time is when she is leaving or has just left the relationship. Roughly 72% of all murder-suicides are the result of IPV. It also takes roughly 7-8 attempts at leaving before the woman leave for the final time. Many often wonder why these women stay and judge them harshly for doing so. Just because a woman stays with her abuser does not mean that she does not want to end the abuse or leave the relationship. Most times, she has carefully weighed her options and the safest one is remaining where she is. She may remain in hopes of changing the abuser or simply to buy herself more time to plan a safe exit. Most people think of leaving as a one-time event. However, leaving an abusive relationship is a process. Once a woman is committed to leaving the relationship, it may take her months or even years before the process is finalized. And, until the very end, she runs the risk of losing her life to the abuser. If there are children involved, the leaving process is further complicated.
I do not particularly care for the NFL nor do I think they deserve applause for ending Ray Rice’s contract. However, I believe that this case represents an excellent time for our community to openly and honestly discuss DV and IPV, especially with our pre-teen and teen population.